Friday, November 15, 2013

Our Three Tragedies -- The Ancient Greeks and the Affordable Care Act

The debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, is looking like a Greek tragedy – not one but three.

The first tragedy is President Obama’s age and experience. 

While no one chooses his or her birthday, Obama’s lack of political experience, especially guiding something as tricky as a near overhaul of health care in the United States, is his responsibility.

Had he not been a young man in a hurry in 2008 – and certainly a better student of American history – he would have delayed his presidential ambitions. 

Instead of seeking his party’s presidential nomination, Obama would have gained executive suite experience as either a governor or a Cabinet member in a Hillary Clinton Administration.  But he pressed on, winning his current post.

Which is unfortunate.  Because if Obama was a better history student, he would know the most effective presidents – the ones with the chops for the job – came to the White House with one or two characteristics:  Prior executive experience as either a governor, a general or a Congressional leader and, usually, 50 years old.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan – some of the country’s best presidents – possessed one, if not both, attributes when they became the country’s leader.

If Obama demonstrated patience, he’d be watching this debate from the sidelines, not find himself in the middle of it, showing what he really is – a political novice whose inability to manage the new law may very well sink his presidency and his party, too.

The second tragedy is the law’s name.  The citizenry is finally hearing – loud and clear – it’s called the Affordable Care Act. 

But when there are, potentially, as many as 50 million people facing cancelled health insurance plans because theirs don’t cover every disease, test and possible treatment required under the new law – and facing large increases in their monthly premiums – then this new law doesn’t look “affordable.”

It looks expensive.

In California, the Los Angeles Times reported, some self-employed people paying less than $100 a month for their monthly health insurance premium are looking at an increase of about $140 a month so their plan is in synch with the new law.

The McClatchy News Service reported as many as 40 million people in the United States, buying health insurance through their employers, may see their policies cancelled because they don’t stake up with the law and another 11 million people buying policies on their own are also likely facing the same problem.

And, of course, everyone heard – or saw by now – the infamous video of President Obama saying, “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”

That statement didn’t come with any caveats. The American people took him for his word.

But now Obama’s eating his words, attempting to find wiggle room to keep that promise while, at the same time, attempting to maintain his signature legislation, something that’s more difficult by the day.  Especially when he’s receiving “help” from former President Bill Clinton, who also made a run at changing how health care is managed and paid for.

The third tragedy is economics.  Its first law is that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and if that isn’t understood by now, it may never be.

A to Z health care coverage – and then some – is costly.  This isn’t like buying a liability policy for your car – usually sold for fewer dollars – so anyone you hit is paid off.

The new law requires you to buy a comprehensive health care policy covering you for anything and everything even though the likelihood of you needing such coverage might be statistically remote.

So what everyone is suddenly learning is that the Obama Administration, through the Affordable Care Act, sold off the American public to the insurance industry.

You’ll pay their rates – and you’ll enjoy it!

And given the Supreme Court’s ruling, there are few legal challenges available.

The Ancient Greeks thought no tragedy was meaningless.  There’s always a lesson. 

Maybe we’re finally learning that if we paid own doctors, out of our own pockets, with our own money, instead of receiving a subsidy from the insurance industry, as we have since World War II, then health care’s prices will drop.

We need to stop acting like crack addicts and wean ourselves off the insurance industry.  If we don’t, health care prices will continue to be inflated.


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